Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Yom tov survey results!

Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey about 1-day and 2-day yom tov!  We received 133 responses, but we should emphasize that we did not employ any sort of scientific sampling methodology, and therefore we cannot assume that the quantitative results can be extrapolated to any particular population.  Indeed, we received some comments expressing this concern:

·        The sample bias of this survey will likely be too large to draw any conclusions.
·        There has likely been a move towards 1-day yom tov over the past 10 years, but I don't know if that can really be attributed to the days of the week. That shift will also likely be over represented in this survey, as people who have made the switch will certainly be more inclined to take the survey and may even be more likely to see the survey.

However, given that the original prediction was nothing more than “This decade … will see lots of 2-day-yom tov people switching over to 1 day” (without a formal definition of “lots”), it is safe to say that this prediction was confirmed.  Beyond that, the qualitative data also provide an interesting snapshot of the diversity of thought and practice around this issue.

The survey was distributed by posting it on this blog (where very few people may have independently seen it without being directed from elsewhere, since the blog is largely inactive), on the author’s Facebook timeline, and in a number of Jewish-themed Facebook groups, and then some people further shared it from there.

The survey defined “yom tov” (for the purposes of this survey) as the festival days of Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah (NOT Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur).  (One respondent commented “Thank you for noting the survey excludes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I am adamant about observing Yom Kippur for only one day. Does that make me a heretic?”)  It asked respondents whether they did 1 or 2 days of yom tov (or “other”) as of 10 years ago, and whether they do 1 or 2 days of yom tov (or “other”) now, and invited them to comment on any part of this.  (The vague language of “do” was intentional, so as to capture the many ways that people approach yom tov.  We didn’t use language like “observe”, so that respondents wouldn’t get hung up on what counts as “observing” yom tov, and we didn’t ask “How many days of yom tov do you think there are?” because that doesn’t reflect the way that everyone relates to yom tov.)  The survey further asked for respondents’ age, number of children under 18 (10 years ago and now), how they describe themselves Jewishly (10 years ago and now), country of residence (10 years ago and now), and what they do/did (student, employed inside/outside the Jewish community, etc.).

The ways that survey respondents describe themselves Jewishly were all over the map!  In addition to all the standard denominations and the nondenominational labels that one might expect (“postdenominational”, “trad egal”, etc.), here were some other highlights:
·        Non-believing member of a religion: nominally secular but heir to a long tradition that is very meaningful and which I strive to continue
·        Egalish orthoish havurahish frummie
·        Predenominational
·        Observant with minor laxities
·        It’s complicated
·        Somewhere on the halachic spectrum
·        Lazy Hadar alum who will help at your new minyan
·        Short answer: fuck if I know
Long answer: I find myself unsatisfied in any one jewish community and I am trying therefore to find community in many places. I’m working towards engaging in judaism in ways besides just what I grew up with (artistically, spiritually, academically, physically, as a nation, as opposed to just halachically) but halacha is still an important piece of it to me. I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the way (orthodox) judaism deals with gender and sexuality.
·        [10 years ago] Traditional but egalitarian conservative / [now] Traditional and egalitarian conservative
To the extent possible, we grouped all the responses into four categories: 1→1 (i.e. they did 1 day of yom tov 10 years ago, and do 1 day of yom tov now), 1→2, 2→1, and 2→2.  In most cases, this matched the answers to the questions, but we also coded some of the “other” responses based on the free-response comments.  For example, someone who wrote “I have two seders at the beginning of Pesach, and don't eat chametz for 8 days, but I do one day for all of the other holidays listed” was coded as 1→1; someone else who said they converted within the last 10 years (and therefore wasn’t doing the holidays at all 10 years ago) and has always done 2 days since converting was coded as 2→2.

Out of the 133 responses, there were 10 that we couldn’t place into one of the four groups.  This included some who left one or more of the relevant questions blank, and others whose responses didn’t fit into a box, such as:
·        I’ve vacillated over the years depending on how flexible my job has been to my taking off lots of time. And depending on whether the chagim are on weekdays or not.
·        I did not observe yomim tovim 10 years ago … I went from completely secular, to observing 1 day with a Reform community, to now observing 2 days with a Conservative community
Of the remaining responses, 18 are 1→1, 5 are 1→2, 30 are 2→1, and 70 are 2→2.  Or to put it another way, out of the 123 respondents who were placed into these groups, ten years ago 23 did 1 day and 100 did 2 days, and now 48 do 1 day and 75 do 2 days.  We’ll look at each of these groups on its own.


18 respondents did 1 day of yom tov 10 years ago and still do 1 day.  Only one of those is in Israel (which is one indication that the sample is limited; Israelis either didn’t see the survey or didn’t think it pertained to them), but some others said they were originally Israeli and have maintained their 1-day practice after moving out of Israel (more than 10 years ago).  Many of the non-Israeli respondents in this category identify as Reform, but not all (one describes themselves as “flexibly traditional”; another identified as “sefardi orthodox/traditional” 10 years ago and “conservative/masorti” now).  Most had relatively little to say about their non-switching, but one wrote:
·        Born and raised Reform, and support 1 day for religious reasons. … I respect others practices, but believe it is wrong to continue to observe 2 days in the diaspora, as the reasons for it are long since gone, and I believe it is important, and mandated,  for us to continually reevaluate certain things.

5 respondents did 1 day of yom tov 10 years ago and switched to 2 days.  Only one of these moved from Israel to outside Israel (and switched for that reason).  The other 4 respondents (all outside Israel) all have similar trajectories:  They are all under age 23, grew up Reform (and were minors 10 years ago), and are now part of non-Reform communities that do 2 days.


30 respondents did 2 days of yom tov 10 years ago and switched to 1 day.  9 of these respondents moved to Israel in the last 10 years.  The other 21 are doing 1 day outside Israel.  Unlike the 1→2 switchers, many of the 2→1 switchers do not report a substantial change in the way they label themselves.  Some of their self-descriptions include Conservative, Independent/Conservative/Havurah-y, Non orthodox member of Chabad shul, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Shomer Mitzvoth Conservative, Traditional, and Traditional-egalitarian.

Here are some of their comments:
·        I changed because (and when) I moved to Israel. Actually, before I *moved* to Israel, I would only keep one day if I happened to be in Israel for that yom tov. By the time I found out that there are those who say visitors should keep two days even in Israel, I had moved there.
·        [from someone else who moved to Israel] It’s very weird
·        My kids moved to public school and 7 missed days in a single month was too much to justify.
·        Having a partner who does only one day definitely has made a difference. :-)
·        I was miserable and stressed by all the missed work/school and I thought observing one day might reinvigorate our practice.
·        Because of community, I treat the second day as a “liturgical yom tov”, but do malakha.
·        After studying Responsa on the topic, I have decided there is no compelling reason to continue to observe Yom Tov Sheni as there is no uncertainty over the days of chag anymore, and I generally find the arguments for "ancestral practice" uncompelling since our world is greatly different then theirs and to claim that we practice Judaism in the same way as it was practiced and understood a thousand years ago is false - this can change like other elements have changed.
·        I’ve never felt particularly attached to two days of yom tov. It’s always felt rather silly to me. But that’s what I grew up with and I didn’t have a good reason to change it. This year I’m working and even with only taking one day off I’ve gone into negative for PTO. I didn’t want to take off more days, and felt no need to.
I will maybe go back next year because (1) there is a lot of jewish community in my area and I would like to spend the hagim at lots of different shuls, and (2) they fall on the weekend
·        It became unsustainable for work to observe two days and I don’t believe it is halachicly required anyway, so I stopped.
·        School and work have made it nearly a requirement to switch
·        We began by holding services on only one day because we could not get a minyan the second day, but counting the second day as yomtov nonetheless.  I found that one day was enough for me, and I don’t intend to go to second-day services if they’re held this year.
·        1. working in the secular world, taking 2 days feels both overly burdensome and unnecessary:
- the "three days on - two days off" work schedule for a month is stressful. It turn into constant catchup.
- imposes burden on my colleagues; I'd otherwise take my time off in different configuration. (eg. week at at time)
- reduces other kinds of vacation I can take from work
- I enjoy yom tov more when it does not feel like a burden. 2 day yom tov feels like a burden.
- Many of my friends who do not work in the Jewish world find the second day to be egregiously burdensome.
2. I believe that the 2 days imposes unnecessary financial hardship and stress for some, given the communal pressure to take two days off.
3. I feel fortunate:
* To be on the same page as my spouse in this practice.
*  To be in a family and community where my practice is known and I'm not marginalized as a result
* I currently do not need to "say yizkor" (for a parent etc). This poses a challenge for second day.
* I work in a company with lots of Jewish people who practice differently, so I do not need to be overly concerned about my personal practice negatively affecting others.

The remaining 70 respondents did 2 days of yom tov 10 years ago, and still do 2 days of yom tov.  All are outside Israel.  Their comments fell into several categories.  Some expressed surprise or disbelief that the very question was being asked:
·        Out here in diaspora, it's what we do, and always have done. As such, I can't imagine anyone choosing not to "do" the second day, unless they also aren't doing the first day. … If I chose not to "do" the second day but still did the first, I'd be a hypocrite.
·        I'm Jewish and I live in America. How could I change?  … I think this is ridiculous. No one should be switching. If that was an option we'd all switch.
·        We live outside of Israel, seems pretty obvious.
Others explained why they haven’t changed:
·        Why I did not:  I don't have an employment situation that creates outside pressures.  I prefer to keep my practice consistent with the majority of observant folks in my community, who belong to Conservative and Orthodox shuls.  My Conservative synagogue observes second day and needs people to show up to services and participate, and I am a person who can do this.
·        Too important to change!
·        Once Hillel established the calendar, the need for two day Yom Tov was "eliminated", nevertheless the Rabbonim decided to maintain the practice. Nothing significant has changed since that time.
·        I didn't because I had no external pressure to do so.
·        I have changed many other aspects of my life drastically but this feels like a very big step.
And others talked about the possibility of switching:
·        One day I will! But I have so much inertia.
·        I'd definitely be open to a switch if my synagogue switched, but that isn't likely.
·        It’s very difficult to have to sacrifice so much work vacation time on the alter of two day Yom Tovs. When I hear rabbis talking about what can’t be done on Chol HaMoed and what loopholes can be used to work on Yom Tov, I wonder how anyone could have a secular job and NOT work on Yom Tov. If major Poskim had to work in the secular workforce, I wonder if the winds would shift. Also, I think there is a shift among Americans in Israel temporarily to observing one day of Yom Tov only.
·        I haven't changed, but it's become more difficult to maintain
·        I briefly kept 1-day yomtov for 2 years when I had a job/academic schedule that did not allow me enough days off. It felt very much like a compromise, like "this is not my ideal but it's temporary."

Thanks again to everyone who participated!  We’ll see what the future brings.  And in fall 2020, the Tishrei holidays will be on weekends for the first time since 2009!

Monday, November 04, 2019

At decade's end

The holidays are over once again, which means that the unusual calendar pattern of the past decade is also over.  For the entire decade from 2010 to 2019, Rosh Hashanah started on only Monday and Thursday.  Thus all the Tishrei holidays (except the occasional Yom Kippur) have been on weekdays, and (for 2-day yom tov people) there has been a higher-than-normal incidence of "3-day yom tovs".

This pattern is now drawing to a close, and in 2020, Rosh Hashanah (and the 1st day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) will be on Shabbat, for the first time since 2009, followed by Rosh Hashanah on Shabbat 3 more times during the 2020s.

Back in 2010, we made a prediction that "This decade ... will see lots of 2-day-yom tov people switching over to 1 day."  Now that the decade is over, it's time to test that prediction.

We have a (not so rigorously administered) survey about whether you have switched from 1 day to 2 days, from 2 day to 1 day, or neither.  Please fill out the survey and share it widely!  We'll share the results in a month or two.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

September Madness results!

(Crossposted to Jewschool.)

After a little bit of last-minute shifting, the results of the Knesset election are final, and that means it’s time to announce the results of September Madness!  Thanks to everyone who played!

Three parties (Zehut, Noam, and Kol Yisrael Achim) dropped out before Election Day, which means that there were only (“only”) 29 parties contesting the election.  Here are the election results:
  1. Blue & White 33
  2. Likud 32
  3. Joint List 13
  4. Shas 9
  5. Yisrael Beiteinu 8
  6. United Torah Judaism 7
  7. Yaminah 7
  8. Labor/Gesher 6
  9. Democratic Camp 5
  10. Otzmah L’Yisrael
  11. Tzomet
  12. HaAchdut HaAmamit
  13. Adom Lavan
  14. Tzedek
  15. HaYamin HaHiloni
  16. Kavod V’Shivyon
  17. Zechuyoteinu B’Koleinu
  18. Pirates
  19. Otzmah Kalkalit
  20. Mitkademet
  21. KaMaH
  22. Seder Hadash
  23. Democratura
  24. Tzafon
  25. Christian Liberal Movement
  26. Green Economy, One State (Da’am)
  27. Kevod HaAdam
  28. Bible Bloc Party
  29. Manhigut Hevratit
And now we turn to the September Madness prediction contest.  Overall, the scores were a lot higher than last time.  This is probably because this was a do-over election, and the broad strokes of the results were essentially the same as 5 months ago.  (No one did this, but if someone had predicted that all the parties would keep exactly the same number of seats as last time, taking into account the various mergers since then, they would have correctly predicted 111 out of 120 Knesset seats.  This would have been better than anyone did in April Madness.)

Let’s start with the bonus tiebreaker questions.  The first question, “Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?”, proved to be an easy one this time.  The vast majority of entrants picked Otzmah Yehudit, and they were correct.  It wasn’t even close (in either direction) – Otzmah got a little more than half the votes they would have needed to cross the threshold, yet still had over 5 times as many votes as the party directly behind them (Tzomet).  But the second question, “Which party will get the FEWEST votes?”, had responses all over the map.  The “winner,” Manhigut Hevratit, won only 434 votes, and repeated its “success” from 2013 and 2015, when it placed last under the name Moreshet Avot (and the April 2019 result, when the party placed 36th out of 40, proved to be a fluke).  Honorable mention to Eliana Fishman in Washington DC (as well as to our runner-up, see below) for correctly picking this one.

On to the overall Knesset prediction results!  Looking at the scores alone, we had a four-way tie for second place, with Israel Yawns, Samantha & Gabby in Jerusalem, Ike Brooks Fishman in Washington DC, and (our April Madness 2019 champion) Aaron Weinberg in Washington DC, all scoring 113 out of 120.  To resolve this, we go to the tiebreaker questions, and Aaron Weinberg nailed both of them, so he is our runner-up!  Congratulations!

And in first place, Liam Getreu in Sydney, Australia, was the only one to predict 114 out of 120 Knesset seats, so he is our September Madness 2019 champion!!!  Congratulations!!!!  Continuing a trend from last time, he was also the first to complete his entry.  So this suggests that waiting longer to have the “benefit” of polling data closer to the election may not actually be a benefit.

We asked our champion for a statement, and he said:
Let’s just hope you don’t have to run another competition in a few months’ time!
So yeah.  Now that the coalition negotiations are well underway, and no one has an obvious path to a 61-seat coalition, it is certainly possible that we’ll be right back here in a few months.  Or maybe someone will form a government, and we’ll see you again on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, or any other time between now and then.  Thanks again to everyone for playing!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

September Madness 2019: Guide to the parties

(Crossposted to Jewschool)

September Madness 2019 is still open!  You can enter this prediction contest up until 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time (4:59 pm EDT) on Monday, September 16, 2019 (the night before the election).  Once again, here is a guide to the 31 parties running in this election (down from 32 when we got started – Zehut has dropped out after making a deal with Likud).  And here are the full lists of candidates in Hebrew (official) and English (unofficial).

Parties represented in the current Knesset:
  • Blue and White: This list (composed of two new parties and one existing party) was formed for the April 2019 election as an anyone-but-Bibi big tent, and was successful in that election, winning 35 seats (same as the Likud).  They’re hoping to replicate that success by running the same list of candidates again, with Benny Gantz (of Hosen L’Yisrael) at the top, followed by Yair Lapid (of Yesh Atid) and Moshe Ya’alon (of Telem).
  • Democratic Camp: Meretz (now led by Nitzan Horowitz, who defeated Tamar Zandberg in the leadership primary this summer) is hoping to build a larger faction on the left by joining forces with the Green Movement (led by Stav Shaffir, who recently left the Labor party) and the Israel Democratic Party (a new party led by former prime minister Ehud Barak).
  • Joint List: This union of 3 Arab parties from across the spectrum (Balad, Ta’al, and the United Arab List) and one left-wing Arab-Jewish party (Hadash) was created for the 2015 election, but then split into two lists for the April 2019 election, and has now reunited.  Once again, it is led by Ayman Odeh of Hadash.
  • Labor / Gesher: After dropping to a record-low 6 seats in the April 2019 election, the Labor party has brought back former leader Amir Peretz, and joined with the Gesher party (led by Orly Levy), which failed to reach the threshold in the April election.
  • Likud: Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying again, after tying Blue and White for the largest number of seats in the April election, but failing to form a governing coalition (leading to this do-over election).  This time, they have also reabsorbed Kulanu, the party that was headed by Moshe Kahlon (now #5 on the Likud list).
  • Shas: No drama this time – the Sephardi haredi party is running again with the same list, headed by Aryeh Deri.
  • United Torah Judaism: No drama here either – this union of the two main Ashkenazi haredi parties is also running the same list again, headed by Yaakov Litzman.
  • Yaminah: The Union of Right-Wing Parties (then composed of the Jewish Home, Tekumah, and Otzmah L’Yisrael) was elected to the Knesset in the April election, and the New Right failed to meet the threshold.  So now they have combined (except for Otzmah L’Yisrael), with Ayelet Shaked (of the New Right) at the top of the list.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: This secular right-wing party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, had a key role in bringing about this election, by not joining the Netanyahu coalition.  They’re running again with the same list, and may hope to be similarly influential in the next round of coalition negotiations.
Parties not represented in the current Knesset:
  • Adom Lavan: Their full tagline on the ballot calls for legalization of cannabis and equality for Ethiopians, Arabs, and the disadvantaged.  As such, the names on the party list include a mix of Amharic, Arabic, and Hebrew.
  • Bible Bloc Party: A party made up of Christians, Jews, and Messianic Jews.
  • Christian Liberal Movement: (aka Ihud B’nei HaB’rit) A mostly Arab Christian party that calls for a two-state solution.
  • Democratura: A self-described socialist Zionist party that calls for a new constitution to replace the vestiges of Ottoman law, British law, etc.
  • Green Economy, One State (Da’am): An Arab-Jewish socialist party that calls for a “Green New Deal” and a one-state solution
  • HaAchdut HaAmamit: A new Arab party founded as an alternative to the Joint List (and like many breakaway parties, its name means “national unity”).
  • HaYamin HaHiloni: The “Secular Right”, founded by Tiberias mayor Ron Cobi (and accused by Yisrael Beiteinu of being a Likud plot to siphon votes away from Yisrael Beiteinu).
  • KaMaH: The name is an acronym for “Advancement of the status of the individual”, and they emphasize criminal justice reform.
  • Kavod v’Shivyon: An Arab party that calls for equal rights for all citizens.
  • Kevod HaAdam: They ran in April, and we still can’t find much information about this party, whose name means “human dignity”.  A number of the names on the candidate list sound Russian.
  • Kol Yisrael Achim: An Ethiopian-Israeli party calling for equality.
  • Manhigut Hevratit: Last time, we wrote “This party has the distinction of finishing in last place in the 2015 election, as well as the 2013 election (under the name ‘Moreshet Avot’).  They hope to break the streak this time.”  And indeed they did, finishing 5th to last!
  • Mitkademet: They are campaigning to the Russian-Israeli community as a progressive alternative to Yisrael Beiteinu.
  • Noam: A new Religious Zionist party that has been in the news for its anti-LGBT messaging.
  • Otzmah Kalkalit: They claim to represent small businesses.
  • Otzmah Yehudit: This Kahanist party was part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties last time, but is on their own this time.  Some of their candidates were banned from the election, but the party itself was not.
  • Pirates: As part of the international network of Pirate Parties, they may hope to be buoyed by the timing of the election so close to International Talk Like A Pirate Day.
  • Seder Hadash: Their main issue is to change the election system, to have Knesset members elected by geographic districts.
  • Tzafon: A regional party focused on issues facing the North.
  • Tzedek: Founded by activist Avi Yalou, who has been in the news protesting racism against Ethiopian Israelis.
  • Tzomet: This previously dormant party was brought back to life in the April election, and is now running again, emphasizing agriculture and rural interests.
  • Zechuyoteinu B’Koleinu: They also ran in April, emphasizing the working conditions of law-enforcement officers.
Good luck to everyone making predictions!!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Knesset September Madness 2019!

I know, it seems like we just had April Madness!  But thanks to an unprecedented second Knesset election in the same year, we're back again a few months later for our sixth Knesset prediction pool.... SEPTEMBER MADNESS 2019!!!!!

For those of you who participated in April Madness, this is going to seem repetitive, but, well, reality is seeming repetitive right now.

How to Enter: Go to the September Madness link and put in your predictions for how many seats each of the 32 parties will win.  All predictions must be non-negative integers (0 is allowed), and your predictions must add up to 120. (For reasons discussed below, it is impossible for a party to win 1 or 2 seats, and unlikely that a party will win 3 seats.  However, if you choose to hedge your bets and guess that a given party will win 1, 2, or 3 seats, that is a legal entry in the contest.) Entrance is free, but there is a suggested donation of $10 to the organization of your choice dedicated to making Israel the best it can be. (If you win, feel free to share which organization you chose and why.)  Israeli citizens are encouraged to vote in the actual election as well.

The Rules (for the real election): The 32 parties have submitted ordered lists of candidates. Here is the full list of candidates in Hebrew, and lists of the parties in Arabic and English. On election day (September 17), Israeli citizens will go to polling places in and near Israel, and vote for a party (not for individual candidates). All parties that win at least 3.25% of the vote will win seats in the Knesset, proportional to their share of the vote.  For example, suppose the Pirate Party wins 1% of the vote, Democratura wins 33%, and Adom Lavan wins 66%. Then the Pirate Party wins no seats in the Knesset (since they were below the 3.25% threshold), and the other parties will proportionally split the 120 Knesset seats: Democratura gets 40 seats (so the top 40 candidates on its list are elected), and Adom Lavan gets 80 seats. If vacancies arise later in the term, there are no special elections – the next candidate on the party’s list (e.g. #41 on the Democratura list) enters the Knesset. It is mathematically impossible for more than 30 parties to win seats in the Knesset (so at least 2 will be left out).

The Rules (for the September Madness pool): The deadline to enter is Monday, September 16, 2019, at 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time (4:59 pm EDT). When the final election results are published, each entry will receive a score based on how many Knesset seats were predicted correctly. For example, suppose the results are as in the above example (Adom Lavan 80, Democratura 40). I predicted 60 seats for Democratura, 50 for Adom Lavan, and 10 for the Bible Bloc Party. Then my score is 90, since I correctly predicted 40 seats for Democratura and 50 seats for Adom Lavan.  The entry with the highest score wins!

Ties will be broken based on two tiebreaker questions:
1) Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?
2) Which party will get the FEWEST votes?

The tiebreakers will be resolved in this order: exact match on question 1; exact match on question 2; closest on question 1 (if you picked a party that DOES win seats, you’re out of consideration for this one); closest on question 2.

Sometime soon, we’ll put up a post with descriptions of all the parties and links to their websites.

Good luck!!!!

(UPDATE: Zehut has dropped out, so there are only 31 parties.)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

April Madness results!

Thanks to all who participated in April Madness 2019!

Here are the final election results:
  1. Likud 35
  2. Blue & White 35
  3. Shas 8
  4. United Torah Judaism 8
  5. Hadash-Ta'al 6
  6. Labor 6
  7. Yisrael Beiteinu 5
  8. Union of Right-Wing Parties 5
  9. Meretz 4
  10. Kulanu 4
  11. United Arab List (Ra'am)-Balad 4
  12. New Right
  13. Zehut
  14. Gesher
  15. Betach - Social Security
  16. Arab List
  17. Social Justice
  18. Magen
  19. Justice for All
  20. Tzomet
  21. Yashar
  22. Zechuyoteinu B'Koleinu
  23. Older Citizens' Party
  24. Kol Yisrael Achim / Pe'ulah L'Yisrael
  25. Pirate Party
  26. Pashut Ahavah
  27. Eretz Yisrael Shelanu
  28. Na Nach
  29. Mehatchalah
  30. Hatikvah L'Shinui
  31. Kalkalah Yerukah - Medinah Achat
  32. Education
  33. Achrayut Lameyasdim
  34. Kevod HaAdam
  35. Shavim
  36. Manhigut Hevratit
  37. Ani v'Atah
  38. Mifleget HaGush HaTanachi
  39. Ichud B'nei HaB'rit
  40. B'rit Olam
Even though the broad strokes of the results (the fraction of votes that went to the Likud-led coalition vs. everyone else) look very similar to other recent elections, there were still plenty of surprises at the individual party level.  As a result, everyone had a harder time making predictions, and the top scores this time were noticeably lower than in past prediction pools.  For example, literally no one (who entered April Madness) predicted that the New Right wouldn't make the threshold.  For the tiebreaker question that asked "Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?", the overwhelming choice was Gesher, and there were a few votes for Yisrael Beiteinu, Zehut, and Kulanu, but none for the New Right.

All that said, we had two entrants who tied for the winning score, correctly predicting 105 out of 120 Knesset seats: Melanie M in California, and Aaron Weinberg in Washington DC.  Congratulations to both!  What do they have in common?  They were the first two people to complete their contest entries.  Those who had access to more recent poll results did worse.  The earlier polls showed Blue & White riding high, before the pendulum started swinging back to the Likud.  But those early polls were correct - Blue & White did in fact win a lot of seats!  It's just that Likud also won the same number.  Both parties won 35 seats, which is unusually high for the modern era.  The last time any one party won this many seats was in 2003, when the Likud under Ariel Sharon won 38, and the last time before that was Yitzchak Rabin's Labor party in 1992 (44 seats).

So to pick a winner, we'll have to go to the tiebreaker questions.  For the first tiebreaker question ("Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?"), both finalists picked Gesher, which means that we'll go to the second tiebreaker: "Which party will get the FEWEST votes?"  Excluding parties that officially dropped out before the election, the "winner" was B'rit Olam (which was also in last place for number of candidates running on their list: only 1).  Honorable mention to Sarah Nemzer Kohl in Jerusalem, who successfully predicted this.  So what did our finalists pick?  Melanie M predicted Education, which finished with 518 votes, and Aaron Weinberg predicted Shavim, which finished with 401 votes.  This means that Aaron Weinberg is our 2019 April Madness champion!  Congratulations!!!

We asked him for a statement, and he said:
I think my only message is that this election makes the dangerous possibility of annexation even more likely and I urge everyone to get involved with any organization or cause that they believe can help prevent that scary possibility from ever becoming reality.

 Thanks again to everyone for playing!  We'll see you again on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, unless by some chance early elections are called (which has been known to happen before).

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

April Madness 2019: Guide to the Parties

It's not too late to enter April Madness 2019!  You have until 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time on Monday April 8, 2019 (the night before the election) to make your predictions.  Once again, here is a guide to the 40 parties that are running (down from 43 when we first launched the contest! Ofek Hadash B'Chavod, Reform, and Yachad have all dropped out!).  And here are the full lists of candidates in Hebrew (official) and in English (unofficial).

Parties represented in the current Knesset:
  • Blue and White: This is a union between the centrist party Yesh Atid (headed by Yair Lapid and serving in the current Knesset) and the two new parties Hosen L'Yisrael (founded by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is at the head of the combined list) and Telem (founded by Moshe Ya'alon, also a former IDF chief of staff).
  • Gesher: (Re-)founder Orly Levy was elected to the current Knesset as a member of Yisrael Beiteinu, but she left that party in 2016 and has continued to serve as an independent.  This new party is meant to be a revival of the Gesher party founded by Levy's father David Levy in the '90s, which served in the Knesset in alliances with both Likud and Labor.
  • Hadash/Ta'al: In the 2015 election, 4 Arab and Arab/Jewish parties ran together as the Joint List, and became the third-largest faction in the Knesset.  This time, the Joint List has split into 2 and 2.  This faction includes the left-wing Arab/Jewish party Hadash and the Arab Movement for Renewal (Ta'al), and is led by Ayman Odeh (who led the Joint List).
  • Kulanu: This party ran for the first time in 2015, with a focus on economic issues, and now serves in the coalition, with party leader Moshe Kahlon as Minister of Finance.
  • Labor: In the current Knesset, Labor is part of the Zionist Union (which includes Labor and Hatenuah).  Now, that union has fallen apart, and Hatenuah leader Tzipi Livni is retiring from politics, so now Labor is on its own, and led by relative newcomer Avi Gabbay (who leads the party from outside the Knesset).
  • Likud: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to be elected to a record fifth term, while fending off indictments.
  • Meretz: The left-wing Zionist party is led for the first time by Tamar Zandberg, representing a new generation.
  • New Right: Led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, this faction recently broke off from the Jewish Home, seeking to be a right-wing party that can appeal to both religious and secular voters.
  • Shas: The Sephardi haredi party lost ground in the 2015 election, when it splintered into two factions (Shas, led by Aryeh Deri, and Yachad, led by Eli Yishai), and Yachad failed to meet the election threshold. Yachad just dropped out (in the last week) and endorsed United Torah Judaism.
  • Tzomet: Founder Oren Hazan currently serves in the Knesset with the Likud, but he split off to run with his own party after a poor showing in the Likud primaries.  Like Gesher, the name is meant to follow in the footsteps of an old party that previously served in the Knesset with the Likud.
  • Union of Right-Wing Parties: This is a new union between the religious Zionist party The Jewish Home (minus the faction that split off as the New Right - see above), the settler party Tekuma (which was already part of an alliance with the Jewish Home), and the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit (whose leader Michael Ben-Ari was banned from running, but the party itself was not).  The combined list is led by political newcomer and former IDF chief rabbi Rafi Peretz.
  • United Arab List (Ra'am) / Balad: This list includes the other 2 Arab parties that had been part of the Joint List (see above, under Hadash/Ta'al).  The new leader is Mansour Abbas of the Islamic Movement, who also represents a new generation.
  • United Torah Judaism: This union of the two major Ashkenazi haredi parties (Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah) is led (for the sixth time) by Ya'akov Litzman.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: Avigdor Lieberman is running once again at the head of this secular right-wing party.
Parties not represented in the current Knesset:

  • Achrayut Lameyasdim: Founded by Haim Dayan (who served in the Knesset with Tzomet in the '90s), this party focuses on issues facing senior citizens.
  • Ani v'Atah: "A social-liberal, democratic, and Zionist party"
  • Arab List: Not to be confused with any of the Arab parties that made up the Joint List, this list is led by Muhamad Kanan of the Arab National Party, which used to be part of the United Arab List.
  • Betach - Social Security: Founded by Semion Grafman, who served a prison term in the US for money laundering, this party requested the letters פק because they spelled an English expletive.
  • B'rit Olam: In the past, it ran as a Jewish/Arab party.  This time, founder Ofer Lifschitz is the sole candidate on the list.
  • Education: This party calls for an overhaul of the educational system.
  • Eretz Yisrael Shelanu: Started by the father of a terror victim, this party claims to be "a party for second-class citizens".
  • Hatikvah L'Shinui: An Arab party that calls for equality for Arab Israelis.
  • Ichud B'nei HaB'rit: A mostly Arab Christian party that also calls for equality for all citizens.
  • Justice for All: Most notably an animal rights party.
  • Kalkalah Yerukah - Medinah Achat: The name means "Green Economy - One State", and is a rebranding of Da'am, the Jewish/Arab socialist party.
  • Kevod HaAdam: The leader is Arkadi Pogetz, and not much information is available beyond the candidates' names.
  • Kol Yisrael Achim / Pe'ulah L'Yisrael: An Ethiopian-Israeli party led by former Likud MK Alali Adamso, running together with a party focusing on Mizrachi immigrants.
  • Magen: One more new party founded by a retired general (Gal Hirsch), describing itself as right-wing on foreign affairs and left-wing on social and economic issues.
  • Manhigut Hevratit: This party has the distinction of finishing in last place in the 2015 election, as well as the 2013 election (under the name "Moreshet Avot").  They hope to break the streak this time.
  • Mehatchalah: A new party whose platform includes overhauling the family/juvenile court system, and establishing direct elections of Knesset members.
  • Mifleget HaGush HaTanachi: A new Jewish-Christian party (with a message that may be anti-Muslim), trying to appeal to immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
  • Na Nach: Breslov Hasidim who dance in the streets.
  • Older Citizens' Party: As the name suggests, this is another party focusing on senior citizens' issues.
  • Pashut Ahavah: "Simply Love", a multicultural Jewish/Arab party.
  • Pirate Party: Part of the international network of Pirate Parties that supports Internet freedom and includes the current third-largest party in the Czech parliament.
  • Shavim: Their platform is about education, particularly special education.
  • Social Justice: Other parties have run under this name in the past (because it's easier to use an existing registered party than to start a new one), but this time there is a focus on environmental issues.
  • Yashar: This party supports direct democracy, and has developed an app so that party members can vote on how their Knesset representatives should vote on bills.
  • Zechuyoteinu B'Koleinu: Their signature issue is the working conditions of law-enforcement officers.
  • Zehut: This new party, founded by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, combines right-wing positions on some issues (annexing the West Bank) with libertarian positions on others (legalizing marijuana).